THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

A small portion of despair and enlightenment delivered to your inbox every Friday
23 October 2009 ~


We can't understand the fuss that's been made about the fact that Sir Alex Ferguson sent a letter to Steven Defour wishing him a speedy recovery from injury. Defour's club Standard Liège have been grumbling about tapping up but surely Fergie is simply doing what a lot of people of his age do, writing a nice breezy letter, possibly accompanied by a picture of his grandchildren on a day out in the Peak District. When it's Defour's birthday he'll get a card from Sir Alex with a picture of a racing car or a yacht, and a gift voucher for WH Smiths slipped in, or a tenner with an attached note suggesting that he put it towards a pop record. Defour will be prevailed upon to respond by his parents, in his best handwriting, with news of the family's hamster.

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Badge of the week ~ FC Flora Tallinn
One of the many creeping terrors of the 21st century, along with melting glaciers and chemistry between newsreaders, is the globalisation of karaoke. The tonal difference between three pub blokes on pear cider singing Angels and an air-raid siren heard from underwater is absolutely subtle. And yet here is a popular Estonian club bringing this social virus to their very crest. Clearly pictured here is a young woman belting out I Will Survive with her cardigan over her arm (because it's cold out but there's a lot of body warmth in the pub) with the confidence born of two shared jugs of sangria. Rather than discouraging this sort of behaviour, FC Flora appear to represent the phenomenon as uplifting and empowering. Why they couldn't have her in an ankle-length skirt reading a novel on an ottoman is anyone's guess. That would be a proper example to set the people of Estonia. Although at least here she had the good sense to take a jumper out with her. Cameron Carter

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from Jon Matthias
"Sorry Cameron Carter – you may know your badges, but you don't know Scrabble. Qormi (featured in last week's Howl) wouldn't be allowed as it is: a) a proper noun and b) a foreign word not recognised by the OSD (Official Scrabble Dictionary)."

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A recent Daily Express article about Gabby Agbonlahor reads like a vandalised Wikipedia entry, notably in the way that it points to various unexplained aspects of his life. He hasn't seen his mother since he was three, "though she regularly watches him play from the Holte End". So does he refuse to meet or is it that he is incapable of visualising her? His father "tests metals in his own laboratory". What sort of metals and for what purpose? He has "two brothers, one of them named Charisma, who plays local Sunday football, and a sister". What's his sister's name and what does she do?

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Getting shirty
Notable kits of yesteryear

 St Pauli home, 1999-2000
FC St Pauli acquired their unusual club colours in March 1909. Amandus Vierth, who played for the Hamburg club's fourth team, suggested that all St Pauli players should henceforth wear dark brown shirts with white collars and shorts. The colour combination was chosen for financial reasons: brown cotton was the cheapest material available at the time. There was no hint of rightwing ideology in the selection of brown shirts – other Hamburg clubs such as Komet Blankenese and SV Billstedt-Horn also play in the same colours.

In recent years, St Pauli's brown shirts have become an icon of alternative leftwing terrace culture. The supporters' favourite remains the Puma home shirt from the late 1990s bearing the sponsor's logo Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey, along with the captain's arm band which bears the club's skull and crossbones logo. Recent designs by the firm DYF have been less successful, however. The 2005-06 camouflage-style shirt seemed aimed at making St Pauli players invisible to opponents and team-mates alike when playing in the Saharan sand-dunes for which Germany is so famous. And the less said about this season's decision to introduce a bright red kit for special matches the better. Paul Joyce

Buy this shirt and hundreds of others at Classic Football Shirts

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The full horror of what Manchester City are mutating into is demonstrated in this press release from a company called Synovate, "the world's most curious people". With the help of their business partners, City will be "in the premier spot to have the right people in the right place at the right time in order to manage fans' expectations and to deliver unrivalled shopper experience in the footballing world". There's much more but you'll have to look for yourselves while we have a lie down.

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from Fraser Kirkwood
"Last week I saw 'the dirtiest player in the Premiership' (© Rafa Benítez), Kevin Davies, arrive to collect his kids from school whilst sheltering under a bright pink Peppa Pig umbrella. These modern-day centre-halves are too easily scared."

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from Barry Thornton
"With the proliferation of cookery programmes on TV these days, football writers must be forever casting around for culinary connections to work into their match reports. But the Mirror's Mike Walters may have used up all his ideas in one go (pigged out, you could say) in his opening paragraph on England's match with Belarus:
'Ben Foster had busier nights chopping parsley when he was a trainee chef at Café Rouge in Leamington Spa. But the Manchester United goalkeeper's mundane clean sheet last night may prove to be his perfect release from hell's kitchen in the Premier League. Foster's hesitant displays this season have been like a novice's soufflé – all the ingredients are there, but it did not rise to the occasion and the dish has been half-baked.' There's a final flourish later on: 'Fabio Capello was entitled to conclude it is safe to let him loose in the kitchen again without fear of burning his fingers on the hob.' I'm feeling quite full after all that."

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Staying with the Daily Mirror, they have come up with an almost heroically pointless alternative League table. Some might think that that being supported by the writer of Stairway To Heaven would be enough to put Wolves in the relegation zone rather than at the top.

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Stickipedia A mine of information constructed from sticker cards

Peter Shilton, Leicester City Wonderful World of Soccer Stars, 1974-75
Peter Shilton's smile here has an almost beatific quality, which is poignant in view of the damage that was about to be done to his merchandising portfolio. For most of the last century the only colour English goalkeepers were banned from wearing was black, to avoid clashing with referees. No one gave much consideration to wearing white until England's number one designed his own range of shirts in that colour for manufacturers Admiral. Here he is modelling the white top on the last occasion it was used.

Leicester City were playing Liverpool in a midweek FA Cup semi-final replay in 1974. One of the goals in Liverpool's 3-1 win was a long-range shot, one of several their players made that night. TV pundit Jimmy Hill later suggested that the goalscorer, Kevin Keegan, had picked his spot by aiming away from Shilton's torso which was luminous under the floodlights. Shilton reverted to wearing green and trunkloads of unsold white shirts must have been shipped back to the manufacturers or emptied into landfill. After a short spell in management and some business setbacks, Shilton resumed his goalkeeping career at the age of 46 in 1995, finally making 1005 League appearances. Since Shilton's heyday, goalkeepers have worn jerseys in every possible colour combination but no one has thought to revive all-white.

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